Exploring the Political Dynamics of Non-Governmental Organizations and the State in Trinidad and Tobago From a Postinternational Framework

Exploring the Political Dynamics of Non-Governmental Organizations and the State in Trinidad and Tobago From a Postinternational Framework

Dana-Marie Ramjit
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/IJPAE.2021040102
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Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the state contribute considerably to the unique state of Caribbean politics, yet their relationship is turbulent, which prevents effective policymaking. Specifically, the problem this study addressed is the turbulent relationship between NGOs and the state in Trinidad and Tobago from a postinternational framework. The purpose of this research was to provide an explanation of the NGO-state relationship through the postinternational concepts of turbulence and distant proximities using a qualitative research approach.
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Operating as a third sector in society, NGOs are important actors in development, human rights, the environment, culture, policy, research, democracy and in other areas. NGOs have been the subject of much discussion, study and analysis, and have been at the center of international relations for some time (Aho, 2017; Dar, 2015). While NGOs have been around for centuries, they only acquired international recognition in the 1980s and 1990s (Karns, Mingst & Stiles, 2015). NGOs are becoming necessary due to an apparent decline of state prominence and are now legitimate entities, occupying a level position with the state on the international stage (Pineda, 2013). Today, NGO involvement in negotiations and policymaking speak to its capacity to become major political actors (Blasiak, et al., 2017). The study of NGOs in modern society is interesting and necessary.

The Caribbean has felt the effects of the presence of NGOs. In fact, the growth of NGOs has contributed meaningfully to democratization in the region (Brown, 2015; Pineda, 2013). In February 2017, the EU awarded 17 nongovernmental organizations $5 million for projects in governance and human rights, acknowledging the critical role played by NGOs in shaping government policies and fostering peace (Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, 2017). In 2017, the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce partnered with the NGO Habitat for Humanity for their Leaders Build 2017 initiative, to build homes for marginalized communities (Harrinanan, 2017). These examples demonstrate, among many others, the attempts made by NGOs to collaborate on critical issues in Trinidad and Tobago.

However, NGOs are not without their challenges. While NGOs are critical actors in society, they are also criticized as distrustful agents with alternative agendas (Afaq, 2013; Bourillon, Flores, & Fulton, Moreno, 2017; Hickey, Phillip, Saint Ville, & 2017). Caribbean NGOs have been affected by globalization, the rise of neoliberal politics, and regional integration and state reforms, which have altered their political, economic, social and cultural conditions (Bowen, 2013; Brown, 2015). Moreover, NGOs are faced with structural problems such as financial interdependence and legal regulations (Bowen, 2013; Moreno, et al., 2017). Perrone (2009) recounted that NGO participation for developing regions like the Caribbean are the weakest, with funding being the most critical problem (Perrone, 2009). Pino (2010) found that NGOs are challenged by a lack of respect, recognition and resources from the state (Pino, 2010). Civil society in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean remains disturbed, due to lack of recognition from and involvement by the state (Ali, Miller & Ponce de Leon, 2017; Pino, 2010). While they are nongovernmental, they are constantly monitored by the state; a reminder of their lack of power and authority (Alvare, 2010). Ultimately, it appears the state has ostracized civil society organizations and this climate has made it difficult for cooperation and integration (Grenade, 2013). NGOs are seriously weakened by these challenges.

Politics in the Caribbean is complex and interesting. Since independence in 1962, the Caribbean faced political adversity (Grenade, 2013). A former British colony, Trinidad and Tobago achieved independence in 1962 but maintained a Westminster model of governance. This model of government enables parliamentary democracy, fair elections, transparency, and the establishment of autonomous institutions (Kirton, 2010). Still, the region faced challenges to governance such as excessive state control, a distorted electoral system, political clientelism, corruption, and an unhappy, isolated population, and this is continuing (Kirton, 2010; Milhaput & Pargendler, 2017). The political history of Trinidad and Tobago can be summed up as a winner-takes-all approach (Grenade, 2013). While citizens in Trinidad and Tobago enjoy freedom and liberties, excessive state power has marginalized NGOs and facilitates corruption and poor governance (Grenade, 2013). Ultimately, citizens in Trinidad and Tobago are disenchanted and dissatisfied with its political culture. A political transformation to include that includes greater power sharing and unity among sectors is necessary (Apostolos, Johnson, Kuhns, Maguire, &, 2017; Grenade, 2013).

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